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A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The New Harley 500 and 750

Image courtesy Harley-Davidson
Well, everyone else is writing about them so I might as well also.   I'm usually out of touch with whatever the buying public likes, the sole exception to that was the Triumph Scrambler where I was dead on and all the naysayers were dead wrong.

Most of the comments I've read elsewhere indicate lots of people believe that Harley is on the right path with these two new machines.

The problem I see is not the bikes at all but that  I can't imagine these bikes finding a warm fuzzy spot in a Harley shop.  Harley dealership culture is only slightly less rigid than an old hard tail chopper

The Harley faithful take their brand seriously to the extent that the German engineered motor of the V-Rod has never gotten much love from the True Believers and some Harley people still consider the 883 Sportster to be a chick bike. Mind you, I love the look of the Sportster "48" so I'm not just picking on Sportsters.

the 30 year old Honda VT500 Ascot
When the skinny hipsters, neck tattoos or not (stop and look at the lead photo for the bikes on the H-D website),  proudly park their new 500cc Harley copy of the old Honda VT500 Ascot between the Big Twins in the Harley dealer parking lot they are not going to find much love from their Hawg riding brothers.  I suggest they'll  just find a lot of guff in the form of scowling pirates saying "When you gonna buy a REAL Harley?"   Heck, my old 1%er buddy Crash didn't even like my '86 Softail Custom, told me there hadn't been a real Harley built since '48.

...and the new Harley copy of the copy of a Honda / Yamaha copy of a Harley.
Image courtesy Harley-Davidson
Of course that is probably part of Harley's game plan.  They want these people to start with a Harley and move up to a Harley, not start with a Honda and then maybe move up to a Harley.  Hard core Harley folks may not agree with the corporate decision behind these new bikes but Harley's first job is to grow the company and make profits for the stockholders, not to always please a dwindling number of die-hards.  Expanding the product line to appeal to real entry level riders seems essential.  

I'm sure these new bikes will be a hit overseas where big prices and often big import tariffs put big Harleys out of reach, but I predict in the US the bikes will be relegated to dust collectors in the darkest corner of the Harley showroom just like Buell was.  They may be rescued by those interested in buying a low buck bit of the authentic Harley "lifestyle" rather than the Yamaha Bolt copy of it.

Again, let me say that I think H-D are on the right track with these bikes, they've milked the past for 30 years now and the future has to come sometime.  These new bikes do look nice even if the marketing is in the style of cheesy faux street hipster bad boy.   I'll cruise on down to the H-D shop when the opportunity comes to take the 750 for a ride.  Maybe I'll even dig out my one Harley t-shirt just for the occasion. 


Lucky said...

When these were first announced I was very, very excited, because I want to see HD do something new, and I want them to build bikes that will be accessible to new riders.

I'm losing my enthusiasm a bit the more I learn about them, though I hope they aren't condemned to the same fate the Buells were.

And, yeah, the guys who think the last "real" HD was three or more motor iterations ago are going to hate it even if it comes with a free keg of their favorite beer.

I'm finding, as I get older and hopefully a little wiser (though, let's be honest, that's not likely) that snobbery really turns me off. "Get a real bike" comments make me want to run in the other direction and maybe start riding a safety yellow moped, with a Devo hat.

I haven't seen any ride reviews of these bikes yet (though I haven't been looking for one either), so I'll be interested to hear what they're like on the road.

The City Mouse in the Country said...

As a scooter rider (Kymco 500) I'll let you know I like my DEVO hat!

That being said, it's a smart marketing move by Harley but I will agree with you. The "real Harley" syndrome might be to much to overcome. That being said, it all depends on if the company actually markets the bikes and pushes them in the showroom.

Their is a demand. The Honda Grom has a waiting list. The BMW scooters are selling 70% ahead of expectations. Harley knows it can capture part of that market...they just need to be brave and resolute in the face of there own fans.

WooleyBugger said...

Personally I think it is about time they give a go at the smaller displacement arena. Friends and I have been shaking our heads for years now as to why HD hasn't done this. The smaller displacements have been having good sales for other MFG's and bashing HD over the head about it for some time. If starting out to ride I'd have no problem with one, beats the hell out of what the couch riders are on.

Canajun said...

I expect the comments regarding the traditional HD shop are right on. But what if they opened up a new channel to market aimed less at the tattooed, multi-ringed and ear-ringed crowd and more at the young urbanite? Less edgy. Might be worth a try, especially in one or two larger centers.

Trobairitz said...

I too am happy they have designed some smaller displacement bikes for the entry level rider or those just wanting a smaller get about town. No that doesn't fit with Harley's persona, but then they need smaller training bikes for their rider training program.

There are people who have bought into the Harley is the only bike to ride mantra, and maybe this will help them get their feet wet in the Harley pool. Will it keep them there? Probably, which is what Harley wants - more sales.

My brother worked for Harley for 20 years and I still do not feel comfortable in one of their showrooms.

m said...

Two days after press and they're nowhere on Harley's site that I can find.

This might be a hint toward your prediction...

Doug Klassen said...

M, The bikes are there but don't seem to be part of the regular menus. Go figure. If you watch the flash into it scrolls through to the new bikes:


sportytrash said...

That's an 8 valve motor. She'll have an aftermarket. Don't care for low frames myself though. Jack her up and let her breathe, might be fun. Harley shops today are fashion boutiques. Honestly I'm more intimidated at Starbucks. Folks I know would rather see you ride than drive. The now more experienced RUBs can't say much if they're still dragging there feet at stoplights. If this bike is the blank canvas the MOCO hints at, I see potential. Come on screaming eagle !

Drifter said...

Your comment "I'm sure these new bikes will be a hit overseas where big prices and often big import tariffs put big Harleys out of reach,..." is spot on.

In India we still do not have the roads particularly in our cities to ride a 1200 cc bike. (Hell our cars are mostly 1400cc). And most "bikers" who are buying a harley here is to take their their girlfriend to the pub and back and not really to go on the highways/touring. Mainly because the import duties are in some cases almost 100% :( and only a privileged few can afford it.

(The other reason is that there is an impression here that except on very good roads, the Harleys with their low ground clearance may break down easily and to fix them you need to take it to a showroom to only about 4 showrooms in the country).

With low displacement high GC bikes, they may sell more and with that hopefully the price will be driven down and more people can ride these bikes.

How it will fare in its competition with Jap and Euro bikes are to be seen though (talking about in a country like India).


sportytrash said...

Harley buried their competition in their past by holding together on rough roads and know how to put a dealer network together.

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